This week’s conversation is with Major MJ Hegar
MJ, one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 and one of Newsweek’s 125 Women of Impact of 2012, was commissioned into the Air Force through ROTC at The University of Texas in 1999. She served on active duty as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri where she worked on the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Her maintenance career culminated in responsibility for 75% of all B-2 maintenance as a Captain and selection as the Company Grade Officer of the Year for 2003. In 2004, she was selected for pilot training by the Air National Guard. Upon completion of her training at the top of her class, she served three tours in Afghanistan flying Combat Search and Rescue as well as Medevac missions.
During her time in the Guard, in addition to the deployments to Afghanistan, Major Hegar flew marijuana eradication missions, wildfire suppression with buckets of water on cargo slings, evacuated survivors from hurricane-devastated cities, and rescued many civilians on civil Search and Rescue missions in California and out at sea.
On her third tour to Afghanistan on July 29th 2009, she was shot down on a Medevac mission and sustained wounds resulting in her being awarded the Purple Heart. Her actions on this mission saved the lives of her crew and patients, earning her the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device (making MJ the sixth woman in history to receive the DFC…the first was Amelia Earhart…and only the second ever to receive it with the Valor Device). In 2012, Major Hegar filed suit against the Secretary of Defense asserting that the Combat Exclusion Policy was unconstitutional. In 2013, the Secretary of Defense repealed the Policy effective immediately.
Talk about knowing what you stand for, having conviction, and going all the way forward.
MJ contributes a lot of her success to the characteristics that were born out of the adversity she faced in her life.
The heart of this conversation is centered around trust. Trust in self and trust for others.
When a crisis arises can you trust yourself to make the right decision and trust those around you.
Will you be able to think clearly and access your craft? Will you be able to pivot? Will you be able to perform eloquently in rugged and hostile environments?
We all have rugged and hostile environments. They don’t just involve combat. Every day we have opportunities to get right to our own edge where we’re uncomfortable, where our heart thumps just a little bit when we’re not sure if we can do the thing that we set out to do.
All of those things show up on a regular basis for us so this isn’t just reserved for military operators. Each one of us have moments where we’re tested so there’s a lot here for us to pay attention to.
MJ talks about the importance of being able to be calm and she has a model that she’s worked from which is, “Wind Your Watch” and it’s a fun little applied tool that she shares in this conversation.
We talk about the importance of having a cohesive team in the military and why outdated policies on integrating women had a significant impact on that cohesiveness.
We discuss what it’s like to live with PTSD and how to best manage it.
And lastly, we touch on the attribution theory – the way people explain the events in their lives.
“Practice everyday for the once in a lifetime moment.”
In This Episode:
- Developing resiliency from a young age due to her abusive father and having to take care of the rest of her family
- How her early experiences taught her to trust her self
- The reasons she was motivated to join the military: to serve her country and feed her needs as an adrenaline junkie
- Why she chose to begin flying combat search and rescue helicopters
- The moment she saw her life flash before her eyes on a rescue mission gone awry
- The skills she developed that allowed her to remain calm when all else was chaotic around her
- What it means to “Wind Your Watch” when facing an emotional moment
- Why she is such a strong advocate of unit cohesion in the military
- How she manages her battle with PTSD
- Her appreciation for excellence, compassion, and integrity
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On remaining calm: “I try in my life when it’s hectic and crazy to ask myself if I’m focusing on the right thing.”
“A think there’s a fine line between really trusting yourself versus really distrusting everyone else”
On parenting: “As much as little kids look like they want to be in charge, what they are really doing is testing because they want to make sure someone else is in charge.”
“Love is all around you, you just have to look for it.”
On trusting others: “When you’re in business with a partner who you have grown with, and trained with, and trust your life to, when they tell you they’re good, ‘they’re good.’”
Want the full transcript from the episode? Click here!
Attribution Theory: the way people explain the events in their lives.
There are 3 levers.
- Internal/external: Internal (I am to blame for this) vs. External (blaming others).
- Global/specific: Global (It always happens this way) vs. Specific (this is a moment in time and this is how THIS moment in time worked out).
- Temporary/permanent. Temporary (This is going to change over time so lets flow with it) vs. Permanent (Things always happen like this).
Michael tells MJ she has the strongest framework, which is internal, specific and temporary.
Ground Combat Exclusion Policy: a policy that at the time, didn’t allow women to apply and compete for ground combat units.
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